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"You carry the weight for your teammates, that's the weight you really carry. That's who you're playing for." — Jonathan Quick during Stanley Cup Media Day.
In the monster that was the 2012 Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, goaltender Jonathan Quick was the spine; keeping the team upright and supporting the weight of a season he had to carry until tonight when the pressure was finally released.
During the regular season, Quick played to a level that moved him into the status of elite goaltender. He earned a Vezina Trophy nomination for the NHL's top goaltender and depending on who you talk to, one could make a case Quick should have been a finalist for the Hart Trophy for league MVP.
On Monday night, as the Kings won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, Quick's monumental season was capped off with the awarding of the Conn Smythe Trophy for most valuable player in the playoffs. His goals-against average of 1.41 is the best by any Stanley Cup-winning goalie since Jacques Plante's 1.35 GAA in 1960. His save-percentage of .946 is the best by any goaltender in NHL playoff history with at least 10 starts. For as great as Quick was during the regular season, he was even better in the playoffs.
Nine times during the regular season the Kings managed to lose a game after Quick allowed just a single goal. Quick could have easily complained about a lack of goal support from his teammates, but he didn't. He knew in those moments he needed to carry his teammates. Not the biggest talker, or fan of dealing with the media, Quick continued to let his play speak the loudest.
The 26-year old Milford, Conn. native becomes the third American-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, following Brian Leetch of the New York Rangers in 1994 and Tim Thomas last year with the Boston Bruins. His 2011-12 season puts him in the drivers' seat to be the No. 1 goaltender for Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia should the NHL and the NHLPA come to an agreement to go in two years time.
Once the days of Wayne Gretzky ended, the Kings were again lost in the shuffle of the Los Angeles sports scene. With the Clippers and Lakers eliminated early in the NBA playoffs this spring, it was the Kings' chance to grab the spotlight. Now with another championship to celebrate, the city of Los Angeles will have a summer-long party with Stanley and a parade that will feature a hockey team for a change.
Hollywood is full of star makers. Tonight, Jonathan Quick just became its latest and brightest one.
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Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy